"I herewith declare." A portion of Gila's authentic, handwritten will relating to the Jewish education of her children.
The phone call from Gila, a Yad L'Achim survivor, to one of the organization's social workers was moving and dramatic. "I have to undergo surgery that my doctors say I may not recover from. On the other hand, I have no choice but to go ahead with it. I want to write a will, and to ensure it is legal, I want to do it with one of your lawyers."
The next evening, the will was delivered to the offices of Yad L'Achim, at Gila's request. Yad L'Achim staffers were moved to discover that it was mainly dedicated to the Jewish future of her three children – the children she brought into the world with her Arab husband.
Many years earlier, Gila's mother married an Arab. The two moved to a mixed neighborhood in a city in the center of the country, where Gila was born, a second generation to intermarriage. At the age of 17, Gila's Arab father married her against her will to a relative who was 20 years her senior. They moved to an Arab village and had three children. Throughout this period, Gila endured prolonged suffering at her husband's hands.
Having grown up in a Jewish city, Gila spoke fluent Hebrew and was able to find work in a plant that was Israeli owned, in an industrial zone near Jerusalem. One day, after work, the Jewish plant owner noticed her getting into an Arab cab that was traveling to an Arab village nearby. The next day, when he asked her about it, she told him the story of her life. The shocked manager quickly put her in touch with Yad L'Achim.
A few days later, in one of Yad L'Achim's most daring, complex rescue operations, Gila and her three children were whisked away from the village and brought to a safe house somewhere in Israel.
After Yad L'Achim invested heavily in mentors and social workers for the children, Gila merited to see them return to Judaism, despite the many hurdles along the way. This year, she even merited to see with her own eyes how they blended in seamlessly in religious educational institutions, giving her much Jewish nachas.
As mentioned, Gila recently learned that she had to undergo a difficult surgical procedure and asked to write a will. In it, she implored her children to continue to live and conduct themselves as Jews: "I herewith declare that I want my children to always continue on the path that I gave them to be Jews and live like Jews, and that they should learn in religious schools."
Yad L'Achim reports that, thank G-d, the surgery was a success and Gila is recovering beautifully.
Harav Shmuel Lifschitz, one of the heads of Yad L'Achim, said this week that Gila's will shows the importance of follow-up work with survivors, after they've been returned to their families and people.
"The rescue is just the beginning," he said. "There must be ongoing interaction with the survivors and their children. Long after they have been rescued from the village, our work continues in order to help them rehabilitate and return to the Jewish people, in every sense of the word."